[Lucifer] Then And Now
He remembered the last time they’d spoken.
He’d offered her food and drink as was customary; she’d accepted but refused to dally over them. “Pierre,” she’d said in that sensuous voice, “you ought to reconsider. There is a reason Time is divided into separate entities – past, present, and future. You insist on living by the doctrines of the past, when you do not take to heart the lessons it offers you at present for the future.”
He’d made some glib reply, unable now to recall the exact words he’d used but the gist of it remained the same. How could she, a woman who had laughed and danced amidst unspeakable horrors and who claimed no blood-kin of her own, understand what it was like to lose part of one’s self? One’s flesh and blood…
“Master Lucifer,” a voice interrupted his thoughts. “Ramiel awaits your direction.”
Angela. Angel of angels, his child; he’d lost nearly all hope when the sorceresses and warlocks had spirited her off, never to be seen again. He almost would have half-suspected Maria to be behind the treachery, except that Maria had always displayed a peculiar fondness for children and treated them with nothing less than the utmost kindness. Why she had never borne any of her own was a mystery, but it was not one he concerned himself unduly with.
He pushed away the sharp twist of pain in his heart that he felt every time he thought of the tragic loss of his daughter, and turned to Sariel. “Are the cards in order?”
He smiled as he approached the other awaiting his attention. “Good.”
Ramiel stepped forward. She was carrying a new doll today. By the look of its rumpled costume and lack of hair, it wasn’t quite finished. She turned it over in her grasp, and he could see that the face it bore was feminine – a disturbing mannequin that would shortly become full likeness, and after that…
She noticed him looking at it. “I will have completed her by tonight,” she explained in a petal-soft voice, stroking the doll’s back as though it were a precious pet. Dolls were her instrument of choice. With the spell-crafting design he’d bestowed upon her, she was capable of imprisoning human souls within these vessels. He often thought that it suited her. It was her way of coming to terms with the frightening fury that even she dared not express, fury that had been a long time in brewing thanks to what she’d endured. If she could not be free, neither then would others.
It was something he himself could appreciate, regardless of Maria’s warning.
“What does the coming morn tell you?” he asked.
She lowered her gaze. She had never been able to look him in the eye, and he didn’t force the issue. “They will fight. We will be there to turn them back.”
He frowned. The retrieval team was more of a thorn in his side than he’d bargained for, it seemed. But there was no help for it now. “She’s walking them on the path of the other set.” He made it a statement, knowing that Maria would not have denied it had she been here for him to question in the flesh.
Ramiel nodded slowly.
“Why else would the thought of Paradise frighten a people determined to prevent its return, unless those same people knew they were unworthy of such a reward?” Conveniently, he set aside the niggling reminder that he himself had once been part of the same clan. If not for the Trust’s intervention, he might have gone on to remain at his headmistress’s side the way she apparently had. There but for the grace of God, indeed, he thought ruefully.
He looked to Sariel, who stood watching with hooded eyes. The boy held a perpetually haunted expression, one that he was all too familiar with. It was the same face that had greeted him in the mirror day after day, before he’d drawn out the Kami no Kijitsu, before he’d been approached by members of the Trust…
Before he’d had his heart’s wish within real grasp.
Then, he had been a broken man, a lost man, trapped in the old world from whence he’d come. Now – now he was poised to form a new world, one in which there would be no pain, no sorrow, no lost daughters. And, most importantly, no room for wielders of witchcraft. His would be the final arcane acts performed before he stepped through that gate and closed it forevermore behind the lot of them.
“Bring me the deck.”
You meddle with powers you cannot possibly comprehend, Pierre.
As do you, Lady Death. Our Queen underestimated you. I won’t make that same mistake. I only wish that you would have laid aside such follies and joined me. I would have been proud to stand with you at the edge of all Creation.
Sariel returned from his task, solemnly handing over the enchanted cards. He cupped them in his hands as one would fine pearls – to him, they were the crowning jewels in his divine design. “Gather the others. Our time draws near. My children, you will be the archangels heralding my paradise, and they the fallen ones cast asunder.”
He would not spare her. He could not, not after this. It pained him to resort to these ends, but she would never consent to take up his mantle; she was far too proud and headstrong for that, and he could not permit her to escape unscathed, however much he might admire her strength and will. This was the rule set down by the Trust, in exchange for their cooperation and aid. Power has its price, Lukifer de Medici, his mistress would have said. Be certain that tithe is one you are prepared to pay in flesh and blood before you make commitments set in eternity.
He already had, long before this design was begun. Angela yet remained beyond reach. But soon, no longer. The best that he could do would be to give Maria an honorable end, one worthy of a shaman’s knell. She would expect nothing less. As for the retrievers -
“Tell me of them,” he commanded Ramiel.
Her gaze glossed over. “There are the two confirmed. The Jagan no Ou and the Raitei. They will certainly arrive,” she murmured. “Yaiba o Motsu Shinigami comes as well. And there will be others joining them.”
He kept his face composed at the mention of the Shinigami. She had said something like that once, well before the cards had come into his possession. He had dismissed it, perhaps unwisely. Perhaps not. This, too, might well be intended as part of the Design itself. Every Paradise had its serpents that must be cast out. Who better to accomplish that than the very Archangels sworn to uphold the will of their Creator?
I have looked upon your future, Pierre, and it concerns me. Stay the course you choose, then, but you should know that you risk passing through the Guardian’s crossroads some day.
There was no room for such doubt now. He was the architect of the prophecies that would be fulfilled. He controlled the destiny he would build. Chaos would not claim a second defeat. He had the power to get back life itself, if he so desired. And he did.
That was the difference between then, and now.